Security Council Postpones Vote on Iraqi Sanctions
The UN Security Council opened the way for Iraq to resume oil exports on Monday by indefinitely postponing a vote on US-backed proposals to modify the sanctions on Iraq, said reports.
Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, who drafted the proposals, said he had dropped plans to put them to the vote on Tuesday because of Russian opposition.
But he said all 15 council members agreed in a brief informal meeting on Monday morning "to move forward with discussion" of the proposed reforms.
These reforms would scrap the 11-year-old UN embargo on trade with Iraq while tightening controls to prevent crude oil smuggling out of Iraq and illegal arms imports into the country.
Rather than face a Russian veto on the resolution, both the United States and Britain said they would extend the current Iraqi oil-for-food program for up to five months.
"We are unable to obtain Russian agreement to the specifics during this period, despite the fact that Russia had agreed to endorse, at the beginning of June, the resolution that embodied the political direction," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday, cited by CNN.
There were no immediate indications, however, that the Russians were any more willing to compromise than they have been in the past four weeks, CNN said.
Boucher said US Secretary of State Colin Powell made no progress toward easing the impasse with Moscow in a telephone call Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
"They discussed the situation. ... I don't want to say that we moved it any closer to resolving [it]," he told reporters.
Russia objects in particular to a goods review list, which the United States and Britain want annexed to a new resolution on sanctions, to deny Iraq civilian supplies with a military potential.
The Russian ambassador to the UN, Sergei Lavrov, said an alternative draft resolution that he brought to the council last week remained on the table, according to AFP.
Lavrov circulated the draft on June 26, before telling the council in an open debate that the British proposals could not pass, in effect threatening to use his veto power as one of the five permanent council members.
"Although there has been no specific discussion of our proposal, it remains on the table," he told reporters on Monday.
Greenstock retorted that "their draft is clearly not going to get very far."
He added that it sought to adapt Resolution 1284, adopted by the council in December 1999, which offers to suspend sanctions if Iraq allows UN arms inspectors back into the country and cooperates with them fully.
Iraq, which says it has already disarmed and insists that sanctions be lifted unconditionally, promised Monday to strengthen its ties with Moscow in all fields if Russia adopted a favorable position over "smart sanctions."
"Iraq will take into consideration the positive positions of countries over the sanctions" imposed on it, said the undersecretary of state at the oil ministry, Fayez Shahin, quoted by the INA agency.
Greenstock described Russian opposition to sanctions reform as "unjustified, negative and national," but acknowledged that the opposition was real, according to CNN.
Instead of pushing for a vote, he submitted a draft resolution to extend the UN's Iraq oil-for-food program by 150 days from midnight, New York time, on Tuesday (0400 GMT Wednesday).
He said the program would go into a new phase, ending the current one-month extension to July 3, set by the council while it discussed sanctions reform.
Iraq, which cut off exports under the oil-for-food program in protest at the discussion of so-called "smart sanctions," said Monday it would seriously consider resuming oil sales if the council renewed the program for six months.
"If it is a straightforward extension for six months, without any new conditions imposed, ... we will study it very seriously," said an Iraqi delegate to a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna – Albawaba.com
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